Monday, 19 November 2012

Literary Journal Submission Tip: Avoid Clichés, or Twist them into Treasure

Source
As a literary journal editor, I have read my fair share clichéd submissions. And I'm afraid to say, that most of the time, they make me wince.

As a writer, it is probably hard to comprehend how overwhelming these clichéd  submissions actually are. You are one person, and you think, "oh, it'll be alright, surely there won't be any other subs like this." You would be surprised. You need to think, are you really going to be noticed writing about the sea breeze among an inbox full of 300-400 other subs?

Vine Leaves Literary Journal has been around for a year now. And the clichés (especially in poetry) that most frequently overwhelm us are:
  • gardens/plants (pretty red poppies and bees and roses)
  • sun/moon (shining on sand or water)
  • beating hearts (oh boy how much I love you)
  • quiet nights (as I caress your cheek as soft as a baby's bottom)
  • gentle breezes (I close my eyes and feel your presence)
  • oceans/beaches (my toes dig into the warm sand)
  • weather/seasons (birds chirping in spring, heat waves rising off the road)
However, if you are sure that you have written about these things in a unique way, we're totally open to reading about them. But trust me, we will be extra critical.

For an example of one unique way to write about gardens, take a look at The History of Dirt, by Allie Marini Batts, from Issue #03. This WOWED us.

So next time, before you submit, think twice. Are you writing about a clichéd  topic? If so, did you twist it into treasure?

What other clichés can you think of that you persistently see in writing? Or better still, what have you read that deals with a cliché in a unique way?
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PS: Sadly, FABRIC didn't make it into the Goodreads Choice Awards ten finalists. But thank you to all of you who tried to help me get there with your votes! Your support is amazing. And I am still pleased that it was a semi-finalist. I guess that's no easy achievement in itself.

27 comments:

  1. Great topic. I once heard an agent say at a conference that when a manuscript opens up talking about the weather, he wont' read the rest.

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    1. Em, Yeah, I'm not surprised, but I totally disagree with that attitude. Because we have found some absolute gems by insisting we read to the end of every piece. Sometimes the endings shed a completely new light on the content from twists and turns. You just never know.

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  2. I bet you see a lot of cliches.
    Sorry your book didn't make the finals. I did vote!

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  3. Interesting the majority of those cliches have to do with nature, scenery. I'm not surprised about the 'love boy' one, though. lol

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    1. Yes, especially in poetry. what is it with gardens that inspires poetry?

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    2. I'm not entirely convinced that its gardens per say that inspire poetry, but what's locked inside the garden. Nature being one of life's abstracts.

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  4. I love it when writers take a cliche and twist it into some fresh.

    Sorry that you didn't make it to the final, but making it to the semifinals is damn good!

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    1. Thanks, Stina. Yeah, I'm trying to feel positive about it. Once the blow wears off I think I'll be able to feel proud of the achievement.

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  5. I voted too! Better luck next time.

    Just read Allie's story - WOAH. amazing and so powerful.

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    1. It is VERY powerful. Amazing talent she has!

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  6. I bet you've seen every cliche in the book.

    I'm sorry you didn't win.

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    1. I think I might have.
      Nevermind about Goodreads. It's a step in the right direction!

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  7. Oh, I bet on those vignettes you get cliches! There are certain settings that make people thoughtful, so I get the temptation.

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    1. Yes, it's true, Hart. I always feel like writing poetry when I'm sitting in the sun on my balcony on a warm winter day. But I resist the temptation to use it as fodder! lol

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  8. Crap. My latest novel totally includes a beach and toes in the sand and the moon shining on the sand. We'll see if my editor hates it, lol. :)

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    1. Haha, Michelle! I think if it's a minor detail in a novel it's okay. LOL. But when an entire vignette is focussed on it, it gets tiring.

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    2. It's the END of the novel, so it's certainly not minor, but it wraps up a lot of themes. I'm pretty sure I did it in my usual-Michelle-odness sort of way, so it's safe. The Breakaway ended on the beach too.

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    3. Yeah, it did, and the way you wrote it wasn't cliche at all. I don't think you have anything to worry about! :-)

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  9. My problem was writing the word quickly. I did a search and found well over 100 uses that I took out and didn't lose anything as the context define the pace.

    And I have an image of your book Show and Tell in a Nutshell on my side bar now. I forgot to make the change this morning. But its up now. Good luck with the sales and promo of your new release!

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    1. Thank you so much, Stephen! :-) I can't believe you posted about it without me even asking. That's so so kind of you. PS: If you'd prefer the banner that's in my sidebar, I'll email you the HTML :-)

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  10. Cliches. They survive. All we can do is hunt them down.

    If you send the html, I'll show the book in my sidebar. You have my email.

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  11. It took me a while to understand the breadth of cliches out there that I could use and lean on. Your job is so hard, trying to find the raisin in the oatmeal of cliches. LOL. Hey, it was either oatmeal or "an ocean of cliches" so...
    :)

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  12. Hi Jess .. sorry you didn't win with Fabric or get to the final .. but you sure won with us. It's finding that niche and succinct way of writing - to ensure there's a chance ..

    You're doing so well with Vine Leaves Literary Journal .. let alone all the other aspects of your work .. books and singing - cheers for now - Hilary

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  13. I'm sorry you didn't make it! But thanks for this post. I agree with the comments-- when I am writing fast, cliches proliferate. Editing should be focused cliche blasting!

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  14. Enjoyed this post, a good alert to what to watch out for. Those sneaky cliches just have a way of . . . sneaking in. Sorry you didn't win this time around. Good luck on next venture.

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